Apology to Pule Mabe — and a defence of what we do

The Mail & Guardian apologises to Pule Mabe for calling him a serial wrongdoer and for stating as fact in a headline that he was told to pay back the money. 

In mid-May, the M&G published a series of articles highlighting an extraordinary multimillion-rand tender issued by the North West Development Corporation (NWDC) to a company associated with ANC spokesperson and former MP Pule Mabe.

The timing of the publication of these articles was important. North West had been brought to a standstill as residents shut down public services in protest against corruption in the province, alleged to have been spearheaded by then premier Supra Mahumapelo.

The M&G stories on the NWDC tender to Mvest Trust showed the scale of the problem in the province — even initiatives aimed at developing the economy of the province were somehow hijacked by people associated with prominent politicians.

The stories received widespread attention, dominating the news agenda for some days afterwards.

Throughout it all, Mabe insisted the M&G had got the story wrong — there was nothing extraordinary about the tender or dodgy about his involvement in it at all.

READ MORE: ‘Misleading headline and inaccuracies in M&G’

He laid a seven-pronged complaint with the Press Council. After written argument, and then oral testimony before a panel convened by the ombudsman, the ombudsman rejected the majority of Mabe’s complaints and upheld the M&G’s characterisation of the tender as both “dodgy’” and “extraordinary”.

What the ombudsman believed was unfair was the M&G’s description of Mabe, in our editorial, as a serial wrongdoer.

The M&G was also wrong to state in its headline as fact that Mabe himself had been told to pay back the money, when in fact it was an allegation from an insider at the NWDC.

The M&G was also reprimanded for inaccurately stating that payment was made within two days after an invoice was submitted, even though the word “allegedly” was used — this was, however, clarified in subsequent reporting.

The full finding can be read on the website of the Press Council at www.presscouncil.org.za

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